The Cloud Storms another Product Category: HD Video Conferencing for Business

by Guest Author on August 12, 2011

Guest post by Tom Toperczer, VP of Marketing for Nefsis Corporation

Tom Toperczer, VP Marketing, Nefsis Corporation

Tom Toperczer has over 20 years in the IT industry. Tom was a co- founder of web conferencing pioneer Contigo Software and previously held executive and director-level marketing positions with SeminarSource.com, publicly-traded Stac Software (STAC), and Mountain Network Solutions.

There are several long-term trends creating a perfect storm for video conferencing: The growing ubiquity of video everywhere, decreasing street prices
of HD webcams, and persistent business travel limitations. All are kicking up demand for more video conferencing tools in the workplace.

In years past there was only one architecture for business video conferencing systems: installed-site systems most often found in boardrooms and large corporate settings. Today, there are more choices. In particular, cloud-based video conferencing is an increasingly popular choice bringing
business-grade video within the reach of virtually any employee at any sized business.

Let’s take a look at cloud-based video conferencing, and see how it works and what it has to offer.

There are several infrastructure components required to deliver high-quality, multiparty video conferencing sessions:

1. Multipoint video mixing, often provided by a multichannel unit
2. A gateway server is required for proxy and firewall traversal for desktop participation
3. A collaboration server component is required for collaboration beyond simple screen sharing

Traditionally, one or more hardware boxes provided each separate capability, with systems integration left to the customer or their integrator. With Nefsis, these capabilities are provided via software running on general purpose servers in the cloud. This is a new concept and approach, as no infrastructure additions are required. With adequate bandwidth, multipoint HD video conferencing is easily achieved.

In brief, that’s how cloud-based video conferencing works. But what does it have to offer?

In terms of functionality, cloud-based video conferencing dramatically simplifies desktop reach while seamlessly integrating collaborations tools. These are important as video conferencing grows beyond the boardroom to line employees.

In terms of IT manageability, cloud computing moves video conferencing under ‘virtualization’ strategies prevalent at many IT shops today – video conferencing is no longer an “island of computing.” Now, video conferencing can be managed just like any other virtualized application or online service. The service is highly scalable, and the customer does not have to be concerned about MCU port counts, updating static routes or a major effort whenever a new employee is hired or a new site is brought online.

Most importantly, and very familiar to Cloud News Daily readers, cloud-computing reduces the cost of video conferencing through elimination of up-front infrastructure expense. Another source of savings is often the use of inexpensive, off-the-shelf video peripherals, versus proprietary equipment.

Depending upon your own application and budget, some of the benefits mentioned above may be more or less important to you. One nice thing about many cloud-based solutions is a free trial; you can take advantage of that to verify all the capabilities and benefits mentioned above.

What to look for?

Not all cloud-based HD video conferencing solutions are alike. Some simply host hardware-based MCUs, with no provisions for fail-over and limited scalability. Others, such as Nefsis, are software-based, run on standard off-the-shelf servers, with cloud-enabled fail-over, load balancing, and high scalability.

When comparing alternatives, here are some important questions to consider:

Is the solution truly cloud-based, or simply hosting an MCU or collaboration server on your behalf? Can the online service support HD video to desktops and rooms, or just rooms alone?

The quality of desktop proxy/firewall traversal cannot be overstated – new market entrants always underestimate the volume of proxy-vendor-specific code required to do this well. Be sure to take advantage of free online service trials and test desktop connections with multiple external participants and people outside your immediate local area network.

Check for built-in collaboration tools; as more employees get involved with video conferencing, these live sharing tools are needed for productive online meetings. For use on existing networks, the solution must support variable bitrate or scalable video coding of some type, along with automated bandwidth throttling.

Cloud-based video conferencing solutions are a bit different, but the answers to these questions are what set the leading solutions apart.

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